Access to Heritage Sites
What are Heritage sites? ?
Some sites have:
Personal history projects
But there is very little advice
Museum Libraries and Archives Sensory Disabilities
½ a page
National Endowment For Arts Sensory Disabilities
Design For Accessibility
Advice is often general:
Think about whether people can access your information
Consult and involve new audiences in the production of exhibitions.
Some advice can be quite worrying too:
A professional consultant, whether disabled or non disabled, should
be able to cover all areas of impairment, including those in which
they have no personal experience.
(Audits - Delin, 2003 pp16)
Some advice may be useful:
The Disability Directory (Resource 2001) recommends the use of
1. plain english
2. supporting pictures
3. short sentences
4. clear print
5. step by step learning opportunities
6. active sentences without complex qualifying clauses
Some advice may cause difficulties and
The Disability Directory (Resource 2001) also recommends the use of:
Attention-grabbing, human-story information
No distracting background audio effects
How can we give better advice?
How can we give more good advice?
Key issues from a Medical Model View
Response to Stimuli
Language understanding and use
Key issues from a Medical Model View
But is this research useful?
It is all about limitations...
It is about what people cannot do...
It does not tell us how we can make
heritage sites better
Heritage site audiotour research
Rix, J. (2005) Checking the List: Can a Model of Down Syndrome Help Us
Explore the Intellectual Accessibility of Heritage Sites? International Journal of
Heritage Studies, 11, 4, 341 - 356
Westminster Abbey Audiotour
Comparison of the structures of 3 Audiotours
Main Tour 1 Main Tour 2 Basic Language Tour
Words 7801 8626 7451
Sentences 435 485 567
Mean Word Length 4.47 characters 4.43 characters 4.29 characters
Mean Sentence Length 17.93 words 17.78 words 13.14 words
Different words 1872 1819 1052
Duplicated words (% of 777 - 85% 768 - 88% 620 - 94%
Unmatched words (%of 1095 - 15% 1051 - 12% 432 - 6%
Duplicated words 6706 7575 7019
technical terms family names
dates verbs with different endings
uncommon nouns alternative words to help explain other
older english words
terms that are knowledge and context specific occasional site specific term
I discovered that my audio tour...was better than the others...
And I identified parts of the audio tours where you could ask:
Is there a negative impact on focus, motivation and self-
confidence of the audience?
Identified parts of the audio tours where:
Sentences that are too complex because:
Too many words
Too many ideas
Too many characters
Confusing things to do
At best I could help the heritage sites know:
Where to look
Where to ask questions
What is still needed is people with learning difficulties to go to heritage
sites and tell them what works for them.
The Heritage Project - Merseyside
To assist and encourage people with a
learning disability to access Merseysides culture
and heritage sites as is their right.
To enable cultural sites to become accessible
to people with a learning disability and
therefore benefit everyone.
To create an intellectual access protocol that
can be used in cultural sites everywhere.
20 adults involved
Meet once a month since January 2006
At meetings they plan and share findings
Visits to Heritage Venues
There have been at least 20 visits to venues
during the project so far
The World Museum (a few times!!)
The Walker Art Gallery
The Maritime Museum
The National Wildflower Centre
The Williamson tunnels
The Anglican Cathedral
The conservation centre
The World Museum
Explored the Natural History collection
Could talk about the artefacts
The support staff were surprised that workshop
sessions at the museum are free
Agreed free entry
Went on guided tours
Went around on their own
National Trust say they will listen
to research findings
How is the research done?
The forum has been photographing and
filming to document our visits
Project co-ordinator makes notes of
Questionnaire for Support Staff
End of session questionnaire
Think about a visit to a heritage site...
Did you enjoy it?
What was good?
What was bad?
Think about things you saw, heard, read, touched...
Think about pictures you saw
Think about labels you read
Think about stories you heard
Think about how you travelled there
Think about how people treated you
Issues regularly identified by The Forum
Pre visit information needed
Not knowing what is available at a venue to use it to its full potential
On arrival not being made to feel welcome
Unclear way finding - signage
Use of colour coding for directions
Often needs lots of visits
Info lots of times in small chunks
Lack of symbols in use in interpretation
More and bigger symbols
More senses being used
Audio text at press of a button
More use of sound
Large text is needed
Videos and music create a sense of place and reduce need to read
Computer games are fun
Enjoyed hands on exhibits
Enjoyed people in costumes
The Forum Plans...
An exhibition at St George’s Hall
A film showing how they work
Developing training for guides
Exploring Tactile interpretation
Pre visit packs
Symbols and symbols guide
News letter about what venues offer
The Forum believes:
A consultation process should be
undertaken whenever new
interpretation is designed and made
for Heritage sites
What do you think?